So this past week, I was invited to attend “ChefConnect: Baltimore”, which is an event held by the American Culinary Federation. This is a conference where more than 450 students, food service professionals, and chefs attend from all over the country to discuss and present the latest trends in the food industry. The conference itself is geared towards the food service industry rather than the retail/consumer side. But the commercial focus aside, this was such an interesting event that really allowed me a bird’s eye view into the commercial side of the food world. Over the next few weeks I’ll be highlighting some of the cool things/vendors I got to meet with during the event.
Today’s post will focus on a produce company that is doing things the right way. That company is called Keany Produce Company. So a quick back-story on Keany Produce, they are a family business that started out of a small warehouse in Washington D.C. in the late 70’s. The company is a produce wholesaler that was started by the Keany Brothers, yeah they’re actually real human beings they’re not some gigantic conglomerate of faceless suits. The Keany brothers, Kevin, Ted, Danny, and Chris have worked hard to build their family company into a company that puts out quality product while making sure they don’t take advantage of their farmers in the process.
So what does a produce wholesaler do? Well they work with produce distributors to deliver quality produce to restaurants, corporate offices, schools., etc. They were quick to correct me that their competitors are not companies like Dole or Del Monte; rather they work with those companies to deliver their product.
Keany provides the whole spectrum of produce, anything you can think of they provide. The cool thing about Keany is that they have a huge network of local farmers that they work with in the Mid-Atlantic region. Many of the farmers that partner with CSA’s and farm shares also work with Keany Produce.
A large majority of Keany’s organic produce comes from California, but they were quick to note that you shouldn’t stop buying from local producers even if their product doesn’t have the “organic” label. That’s largely because small local farmers really can’t keep up with the amount of paperwork necessary to qualify as an organic farm, even if they practice responsible farming.
Keany is big on pre-cut produce, which is growing in popularity as folks really don’t want to spend their time peeling or cutting their produce. Being the ignoramus that I am, I asked how they actually maintain the quality of their produce throughout the entire process of farm to grocery store. They use a customized temperature and humidity control system to maintain the quality of their product. They even have temperature controlled loading docks and trucks to make sure that the products don’t go bad.
One of their biggest challenges is the weather, bad weather causes poor crop yield and ergo lack of supply for the company. So they leverage their network of growers to make sure they don’t miss a beat. I asked how they make connections with farmers in South America, and they said their owners work with produce brokers down there to make sure they get quality product.
It was really fascinating talking to a produce company and seeing where all our fruits and veggies actually come from. I spoke with some other food insiders from the food industry that also vouched for Keany’s excellence. So next time you are eating a dish with some produce in it at your favorite local restaurant or at your corporate event, you probably are eating a Keany Produce Co. product.
Photos are courtesy of ACF & Keany Produce